Colony 15.6

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Not my brightest move, I had to admit.  The problem with acting like I was tough enough to shrug off an attack from a knife wielder was that the illusion failed pretty damn hard when I actually got stabbed.

I’d been relying too much on my costume.

“If I see a single bug, I’ll be forced to use this,” Flechette said, angling the spike of metal in her hand so I could see it better.

“Isn’t that going too far?” Parian asked, her voice small.

“No,” Flechette said.  Her hand was still poised to strike the second I moved.

“She was just talking.”

“She just talked to Panacea, if you remember.  And I told you before, the last time Glory Girl was seen was in her company.  I’ve explained what happened after that.”

“You think she did it?”

Did what?

“I think the thinker-seven on her team might have.  Running theory is that Tattletale has a clairvoyance that lets her see weak points.  Finds the points to attack in people, security systems, patrol routes, reverse-engineers the results to get general information.”

Okay, she’d hit the key points, but sort of got it backwards.

“That was Jack,” I said.  “Jack was the one who got to Amy.”

“Occam’s razor.  Most likely answer is often the correct one.  Or something like that,” Flechette said,  “Is it going to be Jack, who has powers we already know?  Or is it going to be Tattletale, who has set down more than enough precedent for that kind of behavior and a still-unknown power?  It fits what your group’s trying to do, taking over the city for yourselves.  And I should point out that records do seem to point to people being left devastated or ruined wherever you go.  Panacea, Armsmaster, the Slaughterhouse Nine-”

“You’re complaining about us taking out the Nine?  And that wasn’t all us.  It wasn’t even mostly us.  That was everything going to hell and people with issues getting pushed past their limits.  We were only involved because we’ve tried to help every step of the way.”

“You think she was going to do to me what she did to Glory Girl and Panacea?” Parian asked.

“I’d say the possibility exists,” Flechette said. “And that’s reason enough to be very careful.”

Damn this.  “I’m not trying to fucking corrupt or psychologically traumatize Parian.  Or anyone else!  Yes, we’re trying to take over the city.  Yes, we’re currently working on eliminating the competition-”

“Mm,” Flechette murmured, her expression hard.

“But that’s not why I’m here, not exactly.  It serves our goals just as well if I recruit Parian.  It’s one person out of the way, and it gives us a way to help people who need it.”

“So you say.”

Fuck, I hate it when people do that.  ‘Everything you say is a lie, including any protests or arguments over the fact that you’re a liar.'”

There was a crash, further away than the last.  Ballistic had headed in a different direction.  For the moment, at least, we were out of harm’s way.

“You’re sort of well-known in the community for being deceptive and underhanded.”

“Because of what Armsmaster said at the hospital?”

“In part.”

“Is nobody paying attention to the fact that he was seriously bent in the head?  To the point that the Slaughterhouse Nine thought he was a good candidate for their group?”

“Mannequin targeted Armsmaster to mess with him.  It’s his M.O..  He goes out of his way to attack and ruin tinkers and other individuals who could do something for society.”

“I love how the so-called ‘good’ guys get to revise events to make stuff more convenient for them.”

“It’s a perk.  People tend to trust your version of events when you’re doing what’s right,” Flechette said.  The spike she gripped between two fingers tapped against my throat, but didn’t pierce the fabric.  She wasn’t using her power or she could have killed me.

“You’re implying that you guys are doing what’s ‘right’ that much more often than we are.”

“That should be obvious.”

“And you really believe that?”

“Have to.”

“Do you know why Armsmaster was arrested?”

“He wasn’t.”

“Unofficially arrested, then.  Do you know why he was cooped up in the local PRT headquarters, with no official title or role?”

“He was in therapy for his injury.  He lost an arm.”

“I know.  I was there when Leviathan tore it out of the socket.  I applied pressure to the wound to try to stop the blood loss.  But that’s not why they locked him up.  They could have given him an administrative position if it was just an injury, and they didn’t.”

“Maybe they did.  It’s not like either of us were there when the decisions were made.”

“With no job title?  They didn’t list one for him, and with the state of the city, they could have leveraged his reputation alone to boost morale, just by saying Armsmaster was in charge of the local task-forces.”

“There’s emotional stress with permanent injuries, too.”

“Plenty of people under just as much stress, if not more, after the Endbringer hit.  But I’ll admit your perspective’s better than mine,” I said, looking up at her.  “You joined the Wards just in time to see the aftermath of Gallant and Aegis dying.  How did they handle that?  If the PRT was that accommodating with Armsmaster, I’m sure they arranged for therapy and time off for all the Wards.”

“Yes to therapy,” she said.  “No to the time off.  Too much to take care of.”

“Oh?” I asked.  I hadn’t honestly expected them to enforce and allow for therapy.  It threw me off my stride.

“Why are you so surprised?  And where is this coming from?  Tattletale feed you this information?”

“Only some of the general details, like what Armsmaster was up to.  The bit about the PRT dropping the ball in taking care of you guys was mainly drawn from past experience.”

“But they didn’t.”

“Flechette,” Parian spoke up, “Weren’t you saying it was Weld who pushed for the therapy?”

Flechette shot her a look, as if she were thinking, Whose side are you on?

“Wards taking care of Wards,” I said.  “Okay, I think my argument stands.  No reason to suggest that Armsmaster was being coddled to that degree for any emotional or mental distress he went through.”

“What are you getting at?”

“I’m saying he was arrested.  Off the books.  And there aren’t really any reasonable explanations to the contrary.  People are still taking his word on events, taking his word on me, but he was as fucked up as any of us.”

“Given the choice, I’m going to take his word over yours, sorry.”

“That’s what I’m saying is screwed up!”  I hissed the last two words.  “Why?  Because of the label he chose to identify by?  He calls himself a hero and he gets more credit?”

“Because he put in a good fifteen years of hard work to improve this city, and because I think your perspective’s warped.”

Everyone has a screwed up perspective!  Especially here, especially now, with the way this city is.  My perspective’s fucked up because everyone I was supposed to rely on dropped the ball, and the only people I could count on were crooks!  Panacea got warped because her parents let her down, because nobody ever sat down and talked to her about who her dad was.  So she convinced herself that she was doomed to follow in his footsteps.”

“How do you know that?”

“I was there!  I, we, tried to help.  But she’s never had someone talk to her, so she didn’t know how to listen to us.  Which is probably a blessing in disguise, because she didn’t listen to Jack or Bonesaw either.”

Flechette gave me a funny look.  Her eyes were vague shadows behind her visor, but I could see one distort in size as she raised an eyebrow.

“What?”  I asked.  Something about Panacea and Glory Girl?  She’d said something earlier too.

She spoke, interrupting my thoughts before I could frame them into a question.  “Nothing.  I guess you’re going to tell me you tried to help Armsmaster too?”

“No.  I turned to him for help, and he tried to screw me over.  I joined the Undersiders to give him the details he wanted on their powers and methods and he not only hung me out to dry, but he tried to kill me.  He did kill Kaiser and Fenja, nearly killed Kid Win by accident, and there were others there too.  All for his own personal glory.  Because he had some kind of crazy tunnel-vision when it came to his personal ambition and successes.”

Flechette frowned.

I took the chance to hammer my point home.  “He knew I was just an undercover agent, but he thought my death and the casual sacrifices of the others who had chosen to risk their lives to stop Leviathan were worth getting a personal shot at killing Leviathan one on one.”

“What?” Parian asked.  “Seriously?  Doesn’t that violate the deal with-”

“Yes,” Flechette cut her off.  “Yes it would.”

I shrugged, looking at Flechette, Parian and the Dolltown residents.  “Probably going to get in trouble for revealing that, but I’ll leave it to you to decide what to do with that information.  I’m already a priority target anyways, pretty much, what with our intended takeover of the city.”

“You seem to be missing the point that you’re under arrest right now,” Flechette spoke.

I sighed.  “And nothing I say is getting through.”

“It’s exactly what I was talking about before, you’re just using information Tattletale fed you to try to screw with my head, fill me with doubts and paranoia.”

“And how would I know you’d be here?  I’d have to get the information from her in advance, remember?”

“Tattletale told you I’d be here.”

Okay, that’s admittedly possible.

“So your interpretation of events is that I knew you were here, I came prepared with all this made up information on Armsmaster to mess with you, and I just let you stab me?”

As if mentioning it reminded my brain, I could feel the pain radiating from my shoulder.  At least she’d left the spike in there.  It seemed even better at preventing the bleeding than I’d guessed it would be.  A snug fit?  I wouldn’t bleed to death in the next ten minutes.

She didn’t venture a response.

“Flechette, if you don’t believe me, you can look at the armband Dragon gave us for the fight against Leviathan.  Armsmaster fried it with an EMP to keep me from broadcasting Leviathan’s location to anyone, and then he moved in only after he’d thought Leviathan had killed me.  It’s on top of a ceiling panel in the shelter on Slater street.  Women’s bathroom, above the middle toilet.  I couldn’t keep it in case Dragon used it to track me down, but you can go grab it if she hasn’t sent someone already.  Get a tinker you trust to look at it.”

“The results could be fabricated.”

“Tell your tinker that.  He’ll keep it in mind, and he can tell you the likelihood of it being something I’m doing to frame Armsmaster versus it being Armsmaster’s work.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Because I’m trying to convince you that ‘right’ isn’t the exclusive property of the good guys, just like ‘wrong’ isn’t wholly on our side of the fence.  Armsmaster’s sense of ‘good’ was purely what was good for his own interests.  I’m trying to do the right thing more often than not, believe it or not, or I’m doing the wrong things for the right reasons.”

“And which were you doing here, trying to recruit Parian?”

I glanced at Parian, “I don’t know yet.  Thinking it’s more the latter.”

There was a rumble as Ballistic knocked over a building somewhere a distance away.

“We don’t need your help,” Flechette said.

“Don’t you?  I don’t know why you’re wearing that getup, but I’m assuming those other people are because of what Bonesaw did.”

I could see the people in the concealing costumes shifting uncomfortably.

“Why I’m in this costume isn’t any of your business.  I’m here to help.”

“I can help more.  I can get them medical attention, start reversing what the Slaughterhouse Nine did to them.”

Parian spoke, her voice quiet, “So you’re asking me to choose between being loyal to a friend who’s helped me, comforted me and kept me sane these past few weeks, or selling my soul for the… supposed greater good.”

“Saying you’d be selling your soul is a bit overdramatic,” I said.

“I’m an artist, I’m dramatic by nature.”

“Then let me make an emotional appeal.  Come to my territory.  Let me show you what I’m doing there, and what I want to help you do for your people.”

“You’ll just take the advantage of the situation to escape,” Flechette said.

“I don’t really think you can keep me,” I said, sounding calmer than I felt.

“We’ll see,” she responded.

I sent a command to Atlas.

“Easiest option is that I send a message to Ballistic.  I really don’t want to do that, because it’s going to get people hurt or killed.”

“His files say he doesn’t kill,” she responded.

“With his power?  It’s easy to accidentally go too far.  Combine that with the sheer danger your own power presents?  It’s like playing tag with guns.  Not saying I don’t respect your power, with the damage you did to Leviathan, but he can escalate harder and faster than you.  If you two get in a shootout, someone’s going to get hurt.”

As if to punctuate my statement, there was a sound of a building collapsing nearby.

“Well then,” Flechette said.  She adjusted her grip on the spike of metal that she held between her fingers.  A dart.  She poked it through the armor of my wrist.  When I tried to move my arm, it was fixed to the ground.  “I guess I’ll come back for you later, after Ballistic’s left.”

“Undo it, release me,” I said, pulling harder.

“No.  And stop struggling.  Unless you can tear that costume, you’re not going to pull free.  It’s bonded.”

“You’re making a mistake,” I growled.  “I’m only trying to help.”

“And I’m doing my job.  I get that maybe your intentions are good, but I’m obligated to take you in, especially now that I’ve heard your confession of intent to seize the city.”

“How many wrongs have been done by people who were ‘just following orders’?” I asked.

I directed Atlas in through an open window.  Every set of eyes was on Flechette and I, which made it easy for him to slip into the room.  My bugs had identified tripwires Parian had set, and navigating Atlas around them wasn’t too hard.

“Stop it!”  Parian cried.  For a second, I thought it had to do with Atlas, but her shout followed within a second of my question to Flechette.

Flechette looked like she’d been slapped.  I stopped Atlas where he was, poised a few feet behind Parian.  I folded his scythe-like claws down and out of the way.

“Skitter… if we let you go, do you promise not to attack or interfere under any circumstance?”

“Parian?”  Flechette asked.  She sounded almost hurt.

“It depends, are you going to go confront Ballistic?”

“Honestly?  Yes.  You said he’d keep coming until he took us out.”

I frowned, but they couldn’t see that behind my mask.  Ballistic was angry, he was dangerous, and there was little to nothing tying him to Coil’s service, outside of some vague sense of duty.

“Are you going to arrest him?” I asked.

“No,” Parian responded, at the same time Flechette said, “Yes.”

“We could scare him off,” Parian said.  “Beat him up a little.”

“And he’d bring in the other Travelers and Undersiders to wipe us out,” Flechette said.

Parian looked at me, “He wouldn’t, would he?”

I nodded, “He would.”

Parian sagged, dropping into a sitting position.  Flechette turned to look at her and froze.  “What the hell is that?”

She’d seen Atlas.

“I brought him in here as insurance,” I said.  “I was thinking about taking Parian hostage if you went ahead with my arrest, but she started being reasonable and I told him to back down.”

“What is he?”

“Panacea made him for me, for fighting the Nine.  Just a big beetle with sharp claws.”

That’s what you were using to fly around, when we were fighting the Nine?”

I nodded.


“Look,” I said, seeing a chance to regain control of the conversation.  “I’ll extend my offer a third time.  Join us, Parian.  We’re not as scary or as bad as we look at first glance.  You’ll see that if you check out my territory.  I’m not threatening you or extorting this out of you.  You can say no-”

“Because I have a weapon at your throat,” Flechette said.

“Because it’s her call,” I said, my voice firm.  “Because I really do think she’ll be safer overall.”

“From those people who ‘aren’t as scary or bad at first glance’,” Flechette said.

“From all the other capes and unpowered individuals who would prey on her and her people.”

“I can’t,” Parian said.  “No.  I have to turn down your offer.”

I sighed.  Damn.  Damn, damn, damn.  “Can I ask why?”

“Flechette’s done too much to help me, to help us, for me to turn around and become her enemy.  Even if it’s for the greater good.  And maybe they won’t forgive me for it, but I can’t agree to short-term gains, to giving them some medical care and reconstructive surgery now, in exchange for becoming a criminal for the rest of my life.”

“What if this was temporary?”  Can’t reveal too much.  Can’t let them know Coil’s reign ends soon, if everything goes according to plan.

“I’d still carry the label, wouldn’t I?  Maybe I don’t agree with everything Flechette said, but I do agree that just calling myself a villain, even for a short time, it wouldn’t be something I could shake so easily.  We’ll find another way.  I can use my power to make money, I’ll heal them.  I’ll make up for failing to protect them.”

A woman with a cloth hood covering everything but one eye reached out and put a hand on Parian’s shoulder, squeezed.

She felt the same kind of responsibility for her people that I did for mine.  The realization made me all the more disappointed that she’d said no.

“Okay,” I said.  “Flechette, I’m going to reach behind my back.  I’m not drawing a weapon.”

“No,” she said, “Whatever deals Parian is making, they don’t change the fact that you’re under arrest.  I have to do my job, and with the Nine gone, your faction is a priority.  Especially with your suspected involvement in the incident with Glory Girl and Panacea.”

I frowned.  I needed another option.  My armor was loaded down with bugs, and that included the compartment.  I could feel what I needed.  It was just a question of getting it free.

Spiders drew silk around the object in question, then made their way across my shoulder and up the back of my arm, braiding the threads together as they went and hooking them against the edges of my armor to get traction in the right areas.  They reached my hand and encircled one finger.

I twitched that finger and tugged the thread.  Another, harder pull, and it came free.   My bugs muffled the sound of the object hitting ground.

“What was that?” Flechette asked.

As a mass, they carried the object into plain view.  My cell phone.

“You make the call, so you know I’m not trying something,” I said.

Flechette frowned.  “There’s no reason.”

“There’s a great reason, but I don’t think you’ll believe me if we don’t do things my way.  Password to unlock the phone is seven-two-eight-one.”

She picked up the phone and threw it over her shoulder at Parian.  Parian caught it.


“I’m keeping my attention on Skitter.  Don’t forget to watch that beetle of hers while you’re making the call.”

Parian nodded, too quickly.  “What was that number?”



“Go to the contact list.”

“It’s all gibberish.  Symbols and numbers and stuff.”

“It’s a code.  First number that starts with heart-star-colon.”

“Okay.  It’s ringing.  Should I put it on speaker phone?”

“No,” Flechette said.

“Tell her you’re speaking on behalf of Skitter,” I said.

Parian nodded.  “Um.  Hi?  I’m speaking for Skitter.”

“Tell her-”

“She just said, um, Emerald-S.”

“Tell her Celery-A.”

“Celery-A.  Okay.”

“Upstairs, beneath the workbench, to the bottom-left of the painting, there’s a panel.  Tell her to remove it.”

Parian relayed the instructions.  There was a pause of no less than two minutes before she said,  “The girl on the other end says there’s a safe.”

“Six-one-one,” I paused to let Parian relay the numbers, “Two-zero-three… one-zero-zero… six-six-three.”

“It’s open.  She says there’s stacks of money?”

“Tell her to gather two hundred thousand dollars from the safe, pick five people who need a break from work, C included.  Only C should know about it, I don’t want the others to get greedy.  They can pack it into a truck, head north and meet you just before the ramp where Lord Street turns on to the ninety-five.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Leave this city, Parian.  There’s nothing good left here anymore.  That money’s yours.  Use it to heal and help the friends and family you still have left.  Get out of here, use the money to get yourselves settled, get some therapy for everything you’ve been through, and go pursue that career in fashion you said you wanted.”


“There’s been too much ugliness here.  There’s bound to be more.  I… I guess I have the money, and you need it.  And I guess I feel complicit in what happened.  The Nine did what they did to Dolltown because we’d forced them into a corner.  Maybe they would have attacked anyways, they were headed your way.  I don’t know, but let me do this.  Let me… I don’t know.  Saying ‘clear my conscience’ sounds naive.”

“And to get this money, I have to leave this city?” Parian asked.  She looked stunned.

“Consider it a strong encouragement.  In the end, it’s your choice.  I’d appreciate it if you kept quiet about my role in your leaving, and about me giving you the money.  I think the Undersiders would understand, for the most part, but the Travelers might take issue with my interference.”

She didn’t have a reply.  I glanced at Flechette but I didn’t see anything in her expression.

“My employee is still on the phone,” I reminded her.

“Oh.  Um.  What was I supposed to say, again?”

I repeated the message.

While Parian relayed it, Flechette commented, “That’s a lot of money to be giving away.”

“I have more.”  I did.  The amount I was giving Parian amounted to a little less than a third of my current holdings.  The bank account Coil had assigned to me seemed to be growing in alternating stutters and huge bounds.  The benefit of having a bank account that was managed by a guy who called himself ‘the Number Man’, I supposed.

“Lucrative job you have there.”

I didn’t reply.  It was just enough money that it’d be just a little tight to manage in the immediate future, but I felt like it wouldn’t be meaningful if it didn’t inconvenience me somehow.

“Okay,” Parian said.  “She said they’ll be waiting.”

“My territory is closer to the destination than you are.  You should leave sooner than later.”

She nodded.

“This isn’t some trick?” Flechette asked.  “Some trap you pre-arranged with those code words?”

“The code was just to inform her everything was fine.  No trap.  But I think you’ll want to accompany her and the others, just to make sure they arrive safely.  There’s still dangerous people on these streets.”

Would she tell me Parian could handle herself?

Flechette turned to look at Parian, apparently considering the same thing.  “You play dirty, Skitter.”

“All things considered, I think I’ve been exceedingly fair.”

“I can’t guard her and keep an eye on you at the same time.”

“That was the idea.”

“I could nail you down to the ground.  Wouldn’t even be hard.  You’d have to tear your costume to shreds and run back to your territory in whatever you’re wearing underneath that.”

“You could.”  I didn’t point out that if she did do that, I wouldn’t have a chance of tearing my costume.

“I still think you have a warped perspective on things.  I don’t think you’re right.”

“I told you where the armband is.  Slater street, women’s toilets, on top of the ceiling panel above the second of the three toilets.  If Dragon hasn’t tracked and removed it.”


“Good luck,” I told her.  “Whatever happens.”

“We’re on opposing sides, you know?  The next time we meet, we’ll be fighting.”

“Doesn’t mean I wish you badly.”


She didn’t free my armor from the floor, but she stood and joined Parian, who was already walking away.  I heard her murmuring, “…to New York City.  I’ll be finished here in two weeks…”

And then they were out of earshot.  There was the sound of Ballistic continuing his rampage, tearing Dolltown to the ground.

Maybe it was good if this place was leveled to the ground.  I wasn’t superstitious, I wasn’t religious, but with what the Nine had done here, even their relatively short visit to this area, it felt darker.  Wrong.  There was too much death and sadness that had occurred here.

Was that true of the city as well?  Was it better just to raze it to the ground and start anew?

I reached over slowly, wincing at the coarse sensation of metal dragging against bone and the red-hot pain of my own tearing flesh..  The movement in my shoulder had shifted the metal spike Flechette had embedded there, pulling sideways against the hole it had punched in my shoulder. I could see the blood welling out, running down into the fabric of my costume.  Once I had my hand in position, I began unstrapping the armor panel from my wrist.

Free to stand, I used my knife and some kicks to get the armor free of the floor.  Rather than pull the spike free of the flooring as I might have with a nail, I wound up pulling out a roughly cone-shaped chunk of wood, the spike and everything it had contacted seeming to have bonded together.  I picked up the armor and tucked it under one arm.

This could have gone worse.  I might have to face some ramifications if the PRT took offense to my bringing up what had happened with Armsmaster, but somehow I felt like I couldn’t have let Flechette stay in the dark.  I just wasn’t sure if that was for my sake or if it was for hers.  The money I’d handed away would hurt, too, but it felt necessary.

I needed medical attention, and I felt like I had to check on my territory after I’d seen Parian’s.  I climbed onto Atlas.  His flight would be smoother and less jarring than walking.

I heard another crash as Ballistic continued tearing through Dolltown.  I could have notified him that Parian was gone, but… no.

Maybe this wanton destruction would give him a chance to vent and find release over whatever it was that was haunting him.

I’d have to get in touch with Trickster and Genesis to arrange our visit with the Mayor for tonight.  I’d have to deal with the threat on my life, whatever form it took.

I didn’t feel afraid.  Anxious?  Yes.  But not terrified, not quivering or panicking.  I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad.  Grue had lamented my lack of survival instincts, not so long ago.  Had recent events worn them down even further?

I shook my head.  I’d have time for introspection later.  For now, I had to plan.

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88 thoughts on “Colony 15.6

  1. Oh, I was hoping that Parian might join. Seems like Skitter just has horrible luck when it comes to recruiting other capes.

    • This seems to be the underlying rule of Worm in total : Skitter is not allowed to catch a break. Got fucked up shit happening for another trigger event? Nope, not getting it. Gets small powerspikes (being able to hear what the bugs do as “human” hearing, more range)? Nope, doesn’t get to keep it. Gets into multiple situations where she could get a bonus power depending on how it plays out? Nope, not getting it. Tries sincerly to recruit people? Nope, no chance in hell. Basically is the best at cleaning up and managing her territory according to a deal made? Nope, guy’s and asshole that wouldn’t even think of holding to his agreements. Oh yeah, and she didn’t even get to truely take out at least one of the Nine through bullshit Deus Ex Machina at times. So yeah, basic rule of worm : Fuck over Skitter. The only thing that went “right” was Grue being able to save Atlas, but I’m sure the big bug will be squashed soon enough. *sigh*

      This is basically my only gripe with the story, Skitter/Taylor just gets bashed to the ground at every corner possible with never actually having something nice happen that sticks or isn’t made taste like ash a chapter later.

      • Yeah. That’s probably the lamest part of the story, and it’s become really, really old even less than halfway through. Nobody ever trusts Skitter. Nobody ever likes Skitter. Nobody ever helps Skitter blah blah blah. I mean, some of it is her own fault, but mostly it’s the author trying to be gritty and instead being extremely predictable. It’s great having a main character with weaknesses and setbacks and everything, but when every single thing that can go wrong does, it starts to lose its impact. Even horror movies have the victims catch a break every now and then, just to add to the impact when things go badly. I can’t think of any single thing that’s gone right for Skitter in hundreds of thousands of words. I can’t think of a single likeable character in this story, either. I keep reading because the story’s interesting and the powers are varied, but I actively dislike almost all of the characters. Including the ones I’m supposed to identify with or like.

      • To be honest, I dont see Atlas as a huge step up, if it’s only meant to get Taylor in and out of places that would otherwise be too troublesome or would kill her (see: first attaining Atlas. Saved her life. Will probably save her life at some point later as well.) His addition feels bittersweet overall, given the fact that Amy was set on having him die soon after, which otherwise dampened the afterglow of getting a really cool, personalized ride. Like getting a really cool present only to have the gift giver stand up and fart right in your face, and then tells you there’s a bomb attached to it set to go off sometime within the next 42 hours. So.. long analysis aside, Atlas feels potentially awesome, but came with enough strings attached that anytime he appears it just feels convenient rather than anything to feel excited about.
        But I SO agree with all of the comment (also the other comment by Simian in reply to this one.) There’s just so much going on for the story that it’s almost hard to believe anyone thinks that the villains arent doing more for people than heroes. Regardless of how someone tries to dismiss what Taylor’s done for her district, she’s still helping people in a monumental way that everyone else who is SUPPOSED to be doing it, cant. Like, the heroes are all total wads as a group, so what even makes them heroes aside from the government slapping the name on them and sending them out.

        • nothing good has happened sorta but a bunch of it is plausible if not outright impossible not to happen. you can’t forget that in real life some people’s lives just take a long downward spiral for the worse. she’s basically living in the middle of a civil war while creatures who feed on pain roam the earth. on top of that capes are new still and there is still a stigma to the names and titles, people are ignorant remember? she works her way through things very well all the time otherwise she’d be in a worse situation or dead. she met lisa and made friends for the first time, she gained a new pet(albeit bittersweet), her relationship with grue is taking off, sophia has been dealt with, she’s helping people like she wanted, and she’s come into her own as a person. don’t be so blinded but crushed expectations that you can’t see that there are good things that happen for her. people don’t trust her because yeah she really is manipulative; she uses mindgames, tricks, distractions, and intimidation almost as much as tattletail, not to mention having been outed as such a person on top of the stigma of being a villain? i don’t see how you can expect anyone who doesn’t know her personally to trust her. it’s like a known child molestor asking a parent to let them babysit their kid and expecting to be trusted.

    • It might just be that she is pretty creepy and scary. Her power is scary when you think about it, her costume is creepy, and the giant Beetle with claws certainly helps to intimidate. Not to mention Flechette mentions that she has earned a reputation.

      • She poisoned off Lung’s crotch in their first conflict and then cut out his eyes whens he beat him a second time. I still think she should have kept them as a little necklace.

  2. There are going to be ramifications to this. She will probably need more money in the future, so that means pulling another job. Flechette will inform the rest of wards what Skitter did, what Armsmaster did, and that they are trying to take over the city. This could potentially destroy the Hero/Villain alliance against the Endbringers, turn Armsmaster into a vigilante, and maybe make the Wards at least more tolerant of her in light of this and her saving them from the 9. All in all, a good chapter that shows Taylor is smart and still a good person at heart.

      • She admits to her weaknesses and faults at least. She relied too much on her costume, and according to Grue, doesn’t have the greatest survival instinct. It takes a bit of stupidity for anyone to be able to sneak up on her with her power. But knowing how smart she is, I think she learned from those mistakes though.

    • Interesting that we consider that things went pretty well when Skiter “only” lost 200000 dollars and has a pin trough her arm.
      The weirdest is that I agree with you, things went pretty well.

  3. Interesting variety of victories and setbacks this mission.

    She was too obvious in her questions and made Ballistic distrust her. He thinks she’s, what, trying to be teacher’s (Coil’s) pet and edge him out? She went in with the intention of having Parian join up, which didn’t happen, and she just gave away $200,000 because of that perennial bleeding heart of hers. But Parian is going to leave Dolltown, and the Undersiders would’ve probably been pissed she tried a recruitment without consulting them, anyway. Also, she took an arrow in the shoulder shortly before somebody is gonna try and kill her.

    Comes out about even by the numbers, I guess.

  4. Eh, she is still stupid. Since she expected people to distrust her, she should have taken out Pariah and Flechette to begin with, then transported them to her territory. Then, once they recovered and saw they weren’t dead, she could have explained things on her terms – under those circumstances, she’d have had no reason to lie to them and thus she would have been far more believable. Plus, you know, not taken a couple of spikes through her limbs.

    • Remember though, Skitter didn’t know that that was Flechette. It it was just someone with a knife, she would have been able to take them, and be bargaining from a position of strength, which would emphasize her mercy towards Parian

  5. Ah, I’m kind of disappointed that she didn’t get captured. That would have been interesting.

    In any case she seems to be a little in shock, that or Flechette’s attack just doesn’t hurt, in any case I guess her minions will probably be calling for medical aid when they see her. Grue is not gonna be happy about this.

    • It’s interesting that the spike didn’t bond with her bone or flesh, like it does with anything else. Manton Effect in action? I suppose that would be essential, since she can use her power on herself; wouldn’t do to then be permanently bonded to her costume and/or whoever was trying to grapple her.

      • Scratch that. I had assumed she’d pulled the spikes out of her for some reason, but next chapter reveals they are still in and are indeed bonded to her bone.

  6. I like how she handled Parian and basically bribed herself out of a tight spot.

    Also, the idea that she may be slowly winning the wards over or at least improving their perception of her (first Weld, now Flechette) appeals to me. A lot.

    It would be especially interesting if the wards learned her true identity and what Shadow Stalker did to her. And how Piggot – or at least the school in an attempt to appease Piggot – covered it up and allowed an innocent girl to be bullied into a psychotic episode that triggered her powers. That would be an EXTREMELY interesting interlude

  7. Question for you guys – trying to put together a Worm banner (also looking into some artists), layout I’m thinking of, there’s room for a tagline.

    I’m open to suggestions. Do I go simple:
    Worm: A supervillain web serial (A bit spoilery though as she isn’t a villain until arc 8)

    More catchy/genral:
    Worm: Capes & Creepy Crawlies

    Or something more meaningful:
    Worm: Doing the wrong things for the right reasons

    Open to ideas, I’d rather it not be silly.

    • the general is, well, too general.

      Capes & Creepy Crawlies is great, but I think the meaningful tagline better fits the general mood/theme of the story, so I’d go with “Doing the wrong things for the right reasons”

      • I vote for:
        Worm: Doing the wrong things for the right reasons
        Although :
        There are no simple answers.
        Is also a good idea.

    • Worm: It got worse.

      Worm: She’s no ladybug
      Worm: Better to reign in hell…
      Worm: Dig it
      Worm: Bugs kick ass
      Worm: Hot hero on villain action
      Worm: She doesn’t practice safe insects
      Worm: The heroes eat babies
      Worm: I just met AronRa. (Sorry got distracted for that last one)

    • Worm: Where there are monsters that make the Hulk look weak, villains that make the Joker look mild, and Heroes that make the Legion of Doom look nice.

    • Doing the wrong things for the right reasons is my favorite of the three you listed?
      Worm: What is the measure of a hero?
      Worm: A hero by any other Name?
      Worm: Paving the road to hell with good Intentions?
      Worm: The Hero behind the Mask.
      Worm: Wearing the Mask

      • I like these suggestions, my vote is with ‘There are no simple answers.’ It dodges any real spoilers (unlike wrong things for right reasons) and is an excellent summary of the themes of this story.

  8. Personally, I’d like to read more about Parian (perhaps an Interlude). It would be really nice to know what she thinks of Skitter, the Wards and the Nine and how the whole thing is affecting her plans for the future (perhaps she’ll decide to become a hero after all, not go into the fashion design; or perhaps both, they do not exclude each other). Anyway, I’m rooting for the next interlude centering on Parian!

  9. What dimensions and dpi would you want for a banner? I’m not a digital artist but I could make a background that someone better versed in photoshop could lay text over if those artists you’re looking into don’t pan out.
    My vote definitely goes for Doing the wrong things for the right reasons out of your three. I really like ‘there are no simple answers’ too.

  10. I don’t know if this is going to be helpful, but I have given some thought into what I’d like to see in a banner ad.
    1. I know this didn’t actually happen, but I pictured a single dragon eyeball caught in a web or net. Skitter looks pensively at it.
    2. Leviathan vs. Skitter. I’m especially interested in the scale difference. This would have to be a vertical banner.
    3. Skitter hides among one of her “bug cloud forms”. This one would have to be vertical, too. I imagine this as being animated, panning down so that you don’t originally see her hiding
    4. Skitter looks over the Bay with a look of disbelief at the carnage.

    The first two might have a caption along the lines of:
    “Thus to all oppressors and tyrants” or “Liberty. At any cost”. I imagine you’d probably change the language to fit the story.
    The third picture I think would speak for itself without a caption except the title, “Worm” lying on the ground with Skitter. Maybe have Skitter stab it?
    The fourth might say:
    “I am tough, but survival is not enough”

    • If those are too spoilery, I did come up with a few others. Like, Skitter either dangles from a hook or sits on it calmly, depending on what you want to emphasize. I especially like the calm version, with her dangling a leg over the edge. If you wanted to get cute with it, she’d also be fishing and she’d have a spider dropping from the line.
      You could also use a line of bodies covered in spider silk. I picture the bodies connected by a slack thread so that it looks vaguely like a necklace.
      One last idea. The topwebfiction banners look so small, you might want to have something as simple as you can. How about a simple web with each letter in the name wrapped up in silk?

          • I like everything except for the small part of the face she shows. I think you should show a small part of her creepy mask to pique interest and give the vibe of a villain. But otherwise, its perfect.

          • Wildbow, you’re a dirty liar. I thought you were missing a kick-ass banner? Jeez. You’re one of those people who are never satisfied with their own work, am I right?

            Btw, I don’t think that you should make her mask any bigger. It’s great as it is. The one thing that I don’t care for is the slogan. Unfortunately, you don’t have a lot of room to work in, so I can’t come up with anything better. The sentiment is close, anyway.

          • If I were ever satisfied with my own work I suspect that would be the beginning of the end for my career as a writer.

            Re: mask, I meant for it to be her glasses, but yeah.

            And yeah, I don’t love the tagline either, but I couldn’t think of much better. Do chime in if you have ideas or if there’s one that’s been suggested that you think deserves a better look.

  11. I finally got around to updating the tropes page, adding a nightmare fuel and tearjerker section and alot more tropes. A big thank you to whoever has been helping me with the stupid mistakes I always make like misspelling Taylor’s name. I love this story and I found it through Heart is an Awesome Power so I and others have been trying to expand the number of links. That said, does anyone know how to index the crowning moments pages? I tried reading a guide, but I can’t seem to get it to work. I wish to spread the greatness of my new favorite superhero setting. Keep up the great work Wildbow, I hope you continue the story for a long time.

  12. I like (in order of preference):

    Worm: Prepare to be skullfucked by awesome. (You simply can’t do better than PG’s submission. to bad it’s not really kid friendly…)

    Worm: The worst kind of villain is a hero (Sums up Taylor’s story nicely – maybe a bit spoilerish)

    Worm: What is the measure of a hero? (Nothing is black and white, something Worm illustrates well)

    Worm: Doing the wrong things for the right reasons (also good – except as a reader who really ‘gets’ Taylor, I tend to think she is always doing the ‘right’ things for the right reasons)

    Worm: Capes & Creepy Crawlies (simple, descriptive)

    Worm: A hero by any other Name? (Ok too. Plays on the irony of having the ‘hero’ of our story thought of as a ‘worm’)

    To be honest…something that took me a long time to get was WHY the story is called ‘Worm’ in the first place. It takes a good long time until Skitter is referred to as a ‘worm’ in the story. I always rationalized it as a good title simply because in the early chapters she is so low (self-esteem wise) ‘like a worm’.

      • Got curious. Below is a list of every use of the word ‘worm’ in the entire story. Just in case anyone cares 🙂 Main point being, it takes until the end of chapter 3 before it is used in reference to Skitter. It is not used in this way again until chapter 12.4 when Cherish uses it. That is the sum total of ‘Worm’ uses in reference to Taylor. The very fact that there are few references to Taylor as the ‘worm’ further lends to the ambiguity of the title, leaving it open to being a more more metaphorical title (as GSW points out in his review).

        Insinuation 2.6 (“Us, Faultline’s Crew, the remaining ABB, Empire Eighty-Eight, the solo villains, and any out of town teams or gangs that figure that they can worm in and grab a piece of the Bay.” – Grue describing whats happening after Lung is taken out)
        Agitation 3.1 (“But I can control earthworms too, among other things, and they don’t have shells.” – Taylor telling Brian her power works on earthworms)
        Interlude 3 (““Maggot? Worm?” Browbeat offered, “Stick her with a crappy name?”” – Browbeat suggests it as the wards are discussing what to call Taylor, they settle on Gallant’s ‘Skitter’)
        Shell 4.4 (“They’ve got the strongest silk of any arachnid or worm out there.” – Taylor talking to Alec about her choice of Black Widows for silk)
        Hive 5.2 (“I didn’t think I could say anything without seeming like I was siding with her on things, or opening a can of worms as far as getting the argument going again.” – Taylor, thinking to herself when talking to Bitch)
        Buzz 7.2 (“Worms. But not, like, tapeworm. I-I can’t see through their eyes or anything.” – Taylor talking to Bitch. There are many more mentions of the heartworms they are talking about in this chapter as Bitch and Taylor remove them from one of her dogs)
        Interlude 11d (“For a moment, Mannequin’s fingers were like worms, each knuckle bending in impossible directions.” – Describing Mannequin in his attack on Armsmaster)
        Plague 12.4 (“When I looked at her with my power, before, I called her the Worm.” – Cherish, talking to Jack about Taylor)
        Plague 12.5 (“Ants beneath people’s lawns, earthworms in gardens, pillbugs and earwigs under stones and objects in garages and carports, cockroaches in the darkest corners of cabinets” – Taylor waking her bugs to warn people about Shatterbird’s imminent attack)
        Prey 14.3 (“We were making holes, but the attempts of my swarm to worm their way through the holes and open them enough for the more dangerous bugs to get inside were stymied by the wind and the flapping of the plastic.” – Taylor explaining her bugs trying to get into Siberian’s truck. Also mentions “Earthworms” later as a bug she is using to sense her surroundings)
        Prey 14.4 (“No-see-ums, earthworms, caterpillars and roughly half of the houseflies in the area began filtering back.” – Mentions earthworms in her swarm)
        Prey 14.11 (“I could remember curing Sirius of heartworm.” – Taylor remembering what she did in ‘Buzz 7.2’)

      • Yeah. Honestly, beyond the initial mistake of letting Flechette stab her (which is admittedly foolish, but less so when you consider her armor’s track record), Skitter played this pretty intelligently. She argued convincingly and well despite being impaled and at the hero’s mercy, and when that failed still managed to help the innocents in a way that ensured her own escape. Sure it cost her money, but what use is money to her right now, in the ruins of Brockton Bay?

  13. So I’m wondering: If it wasn’t for Parian, Skitter would be dead. I would think that would have come up if not as an argument to Flechette for why Skitter was there, then at least in her internal monologue.

  14. …Taylor is calmly planning what to do next with three spikes stuck in her collarbone. When did this become normal?

  15. I didn’t understand anything in this one. Something about morals? Conversation felt really forced, but it was better than last chapter.

  16. How did Atlas come into the room so silently? A beetle the size of a motorcycle doesn’t make any noise when it flies??

    Also, Skitter sounded really chill during this exchange for someone with a spike buried in her shoulder.

    • Dunno about Atlas, but it is implied , more and more as the story goes on, that Taylor’s ability to control many litle insects and see things from their perspective desensitizes her to pain. Not to the point of making her immune, rather, to the point of making her not care much. This might be the first time this was implied though, I am not sure.

      • It wasn’t mentioned at all though, which is what bothers me. There’s the bit where she moves her arm and is reminded that there’s a big-ass fuckin’ needle stuck in her shoulder — it just seems like it deserves more mention than that.

  17. Had hoped Parian would have joined Skitter, or at least moved to her territory to be safe. She would have been a good fit for help for Skitter as she could have made good use of the silk Skitter’s spiders made and created some really great armor for her.

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